Posted by ESC on January 14, 2000
In Reply to: Re: Meaning of "not for all the tea in China" posted by Joel on January 13, 2000
: : If you have any information about the origin or any details about this phrase, please post them here or e-mail us. Thank you.
: I may not be offering anything that isn't pretty obvious. But tea was, has been, and is something that has a market all over the world. It was a customary drink in China, and it was cultivated there. Since China is a large country, it would contain a lot of tea -- and the tea would be worth a tremendous amount if it were made available on the world market. "All the tea in China" therefore translates to a considerable fortune. If you said "I wouln't do that for all the tea in China," it means: I wouldn't do that even if you paid me an enormous fortune.
I couldn't find this phrase although it's fairly common. All I can add it little fact: "America's China trade or tea trade began in 1784 when the new Empress of China, named for its destination, sailed to the Orient." from "Listening to America" by Stuart Berg Flexner. Maybe "all the tea in China" originated during this time when tea was all the rage.